The Distinguished Astronomy Lecture at UC Berkeley: From the Accelerating Universe to Accelerating Science

Lecture | October 24 | 6-7:30 p.m. |  Sibley Auditorium, Bechtel Engineering Center

 Robert P. Kirshner, Harvard University

 College of Letters & Science

Twenty years ago, astronomers were astonished to learn from observations of exploding stars that cosmic expansion is speeding up. We attribute this to a mysterious “dark energy” that pervades the universe and makes up 70% of it. Scientists are working in many ways to learn more about the nature of dark energy, but our reservoir of ignorance is deep. This talk will summarize the present state of knowledge and look ahead to new ways to use infrared observations of supernovae to improve our grip on dark energy. Accelerating scientific discovery is a mission of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Professor Kirshner will illustrate some of the ways we do that at Berkeley and beyond.

Robert P. Kirshner leads the science program at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which makes over $100 million in grants for basic science each year. He served on the astronomy faculty at Harvard for 30 years, taught a big course for non-concentrators called “The Energetic Universe,” and was Master of Quincy House, one of Harvard’s residences. Kirshner was elected President of the American Astronomical Society in 2004. He moved to the Moore Foundation in 2015. His work with students developing the use of supernovae to trace cosmic expansion was a fundamental contribution that helped lead to the discovery of cosmic acceleration in 1998. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, Kirshner was awarded the National Academy's 2014 Watson Medal and the 2015 Wolf Prize in Physics. His award-winning book “The Extravagant Universe: Exploding Stars, Dark Energy, and the Accelerating Universe” in available in 6 languages.

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